The 10th Anniversary Washington Jewish Music Festival got off to a rousing start last night with the Andy Statman Trio’s two-hour long set of bluegrass and klezmer-inspired fusions. Statman is an interesting stage presence, both understated and at times bashful — he admitted that many of the songs being played didn’t even have names and he would apologetically invent irreverent names on the spot like: Shloime’s Post-Bar Mitzvah Song and Song for Sally Fields. Although that last song came close to being named in honor of either Mary Martin or Julie Andrews. It’s not a story that one can really relate. You had to be there.
Which is why you don’t want to miss the shows coming up over the weekend. It’s a weekend in which we push the bounds of what Jewish music sounds like and what sounds can be made Jewish. We’ll talk about the Kinsey Sicks here and The Sway Machinery in a latter post.
So, on Saturday night is the outrageous Kinsey Sicks, America’s foremost Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet who happen to have a considerable Jewish repertoire. Jews, already outsiders in some respects, are not an unusual sight amongst other marginalized groups — think Harvey Milk, Allen Ginsberg, Emma Goldman. Then think cross-dressing a capella singers. Not suprisingly, they are very funny. Wickedly funny. With song titles from their holiday album Oy Vey in a Manger like God Bless Ye Femmy Lesbians and I Had a Little Facial that doesn’t come as a terrible shock. But what did suprise me in listening to their work, was the simultaneously heart-wrenching and camped-up version of the Yiddish classic Papirossen (Cigarettes) from the same album. The song is the melodramatic story of a young boy trying to sell cigarettes while bemoaning his poverty, his handless father, suicidal mother and dead sister. It is a downer, that when sung well can amazingly contain real pathos. The Sicks manage to pull this off while still acknowledging the almost lampoonish suffering in the story. Take a listen:
The concert is one of the best examples of the breadth of music that the WJMF brings to audiences. It also is emblematic of the Washington DCJCC’s commitment to GLBT-friendly programming through the Kurlander Program for Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Engagement (GLOE).
There were probably less than a dozen tickets left when we last checked, so get yours fast.